Israeli entry for best international film fails to make Oscars shortlist

‘Cinema Sabaya,’ winner of Israel’s Ophir Awards, not included in list of 15 candidates; Jordan’s controversial ‘Farha’ also dropped

Israel’s entry for Best International Film at the 2023 Oscars award ceremony did not make it into a shortlist of 15 films announced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Wednesday.

“Cinema Sabaya” was submitted as Israel’s entry after its success at the local Ophir Awards in September when it won Best Film, Best Supporting Actress for Joanna Sayid, Best Costumes and Casting.

The film, starring Dana Ivgy, tells the story of Arab and Jewish female municipal workers who take part in a video workshop, documenting their own lives and viewing each others’, and challenging their beliefs in order to get to know one another.

As the Best Picture winner in the Ophir Awards, Israel’s version of the Oscars, “Cinema Sabaya” automatically became Israel’s selection for consideration as a foreign film nominee at the 2023 Academy Awards in the United States.

However, it was not among the films that now have a chance of advancing into the final five candidates for the Oscars.

Also not on the shortlist was “Farha,” the Jordanian Oscars entry slammed by Israeli ministers and others for depicting alleged atrocities against Palestinians during the 1948 War of Independence that surrounded Israel’s creation.

Directed by Jordanian filmmaker Darin J. Sallam, “Farha” tells the story of a 14-year-old Palestinian girl whose village comes under attack by Israeli forces, who are depicted executing civilians.

Among those that did make the cut for the international film category, one of the most competitive, was Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” (Mexico). The category also includes already decorated films like “Holy Spider” (Denmark), “All Quiet on the Western Front” (Germany), “Saint Omer” (France), “Corsage” (Austria), “EO” (Poland), “Return to Seoul” (Cambodia), “Decision to Leave” (South Korea), “Close” (Belgium) and “Argentina, 1985” (Argentina).

“Joyland” was also included, marking the first time Pakistan has ever made the shortlist. Most of the directors are first-timers on the shortlist too, with the exception being Iñárritu.

The cast of ‘Cinema Sabaya,’ the big winner in Israel’s Ophir Awards on September 18, 2022 (Courtesy Cinema Sabaya)

India’s official submission was not S.S. Rajamouli’s popular action epic “RRR,” but rather Pan Nalin’s “Last Film Show,” which made the cut, becoming the first film from the country to do so in over 20 years. “RRR” could get nominations in other categories, including for the shortlisted original song “Naatu Naatu.”

Detained director Jafar Panâhi was not put forward to represent Iran, whose selection was not among the 15, and Russia did not submit a film this year.

Israel has been a candidate for best international film ten times in the past, but has never won.

The last time Israel was a candidate for an Oscar in the international category was 10 years ago with “Footnotes,” and the last time it was on the preliminary shortlist of 15 was five years ago with “Foxtrot.”

Another Israeli film, “Holy Holocaust,” was also considered a possible candidate for the shortlist in the 2023 best short animation film category, but ultimately did not make the cut, Walla reported.

For the most part, shortlists are determined by Academy members in their respective categories, though the specifics vary from branch to branch: Some have committees, some have minimum viewing requirements.

A separate International Feature Film Nominating Committee then views the 15 shortlisted films and votes by secret ballot to determine each category’s final five nominees.

Nominations for all categories will be announced on January 24. The 95th Oscars will be held on Sunday, March 12, and broadcast live on ABC.

Jessica Steinberg contributed to this report.

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